The Ways of Storytelling (A Lieutenant David Chan Mystery, Part 37, The End)

After I finished writing up this Case of the Curious Car Accidents, I wasn’t sure what to do. I liked it, but I didn’t know how David would feel reading about his wife. Even more worrisome was what he’d think about the amount of play I’d given his attraction to Nina Goo.

Too often the good work police do is overshadowed by sensational reports of corruption and cruelty. I decided I wanted David to read something affirming about the work the police put in. I dropped the manuscript at the front desk of the police station.

One night about 10:00 the phone rang. I couldn’t tell by his voice what he might be thinking. David asked me to get-together at his favorite watering hole, The Blue Light Bar & Grill.

If he were going to yell at me – although I’d never seen him raise his voice very much – I wanted him to be able to do so. If he hated the story, I wanted to know.

Accordingly, I entered the Blue Light – which I still think is the best-named bar hangout for police officers – on the following Friday night.

Rick Yamanaha, the owner, recognized me and brought a beer over.

“First one’s on the house, Lanning. Here by yourself tonight?”

“Oh, no, Rick, I’m meeting David.” I thanked him for the beer.

Han Lee was drinking by himself. There was no sign of the other wrestler to whom David had introduced me, Curtis the Punahou graduate.

Finally David entered. Again he went around saying hello to everyone. A beer arrived for him before he sat.

When David came over I stood and looked him in the eye. Happily he smiled and stuck out his hand. Without having to be coaxed, he started talking about the story.

“Lanning, I have to tell you, this was a tougher read for me.”

“I think I knew it would be. I thought about not giving it to you. I didn’t want to hurt or offend you.”

He shook his head. “Ah, no worries, Lanning. It was a good story, and I just had to see, given the way you were going, how it would end.”

I laughed. “Ah, are you talking about the way I changed things up?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, for instance, you do know that Nina’s in prison serving multiple life terms, right?” He smiled. “I felt a little bit bad when I put the cuffs on her, but man, was I glad to get her off the street. That woman was dangerous in the extreme.”

This was going well.

“Lanning, how’d you come up with the idea of her writing me that letter?”

“I kinda thought that exposing the real woman, reading how she admitted to all those things, would ease the character out of his romantic feelings. It didn’t just hurt. It scared him out of love.”

David said, “I used to listen to my grandfather talk about how Mr. Derr Biggers would take a case and create a good story based on it.  My grandfather said that if Derr Biggers had stuck to the facts, with no fictionalizing at at all, that the stories would too boring to read. He loved being turned into Derr Biggers’s character. Each novel that came out, you know, he could hardly wait to read what he’d done in that particular case. Same with all the movies.”

We both laughed.

I said, “David, I don’t think your cases could ever be boring, but I did want to write this one with more of an emphasis on love. Yours for your wife, and at least the affection, for Nina, that came through when you testified at the trial.”

Honolulu’s finest sat there looking at his hands. “Yeah, it was a bad time. My wife had died two years before, and, you know, I was lonely. Nina, well, Nina was a piece of my past, someone for whom I had felt affection. Eh, love is blinding sometimes.”

“I’m glad I didn’t offend you, David. That’s the last thing I’d want to do. Especially regarding your wife.”

He laughed again. “Lanning, if you’d written this back then, I might have punched you in the nose, but it’s been ten years. I still love my wife more than any woman I’ve ever known, but I’m not, you know, raw anymore.”

I was glad.

“On another note, you know, it’s uncanny how well you characterize Victor. I love his character. He steals every scene. If he were still alive, he’d love himself.”

We clinked glasses.

“And,” David said, “as my grandfather used to say, I can hardly wait to see what you have me do in the next one.”

Leimomi Sanchez came on to sing. We listened to her first set. As we were waiting to pay, patrons began moving the tables and chairs to the side of the room.

“David, what’s going on?”

“You see that guy two seats over from Han?”

I nodded.

“That wrestler is the Coffinmaker.”

“Because he kills in the ring?”

“No. It’s because his dad was a mortician. The guy really used to help build coffins. But it’s a good name, right?”

I agreed.

“A couple years ago, when he started wrestling, he came in here and realized he and Leimomi knew each other from small kid time. One thing led to another, and Leimomi challenged him to a wrestling match. Right here. He lost.”

“What? She must be tough, huh?”

“Oh, yeah, you wouldn’t want to mess with her.”

“So why are they clearing the area?”

“They wrestle every once in a while. He hasn’t beaten her yet, but she keeps giving him chance.”

Out on the sidewalk, David and I shook hands again.

“Lanning, any idea which case you’ll fictionalize this time?”

“David, so many look good. You want me to try any particular one?”

He told me to surprise him, then turned and disappeared into the night.

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